This issues paper was prepared in response to the lived experience and literature presented at the Disability and Disaster Resilience forum hosted by DARU on 27 August 2020 which built a picture of the roadblocks to safety and wellbeing for Australians with disability in emergency management.
Australia experienced multiple disaster events in 2020 including the longest drought and most intense bushfires. The experience of disaster was compounded by the current global pandemic. The emergency situation in Australia brought into sharp relief shortcomings in Australia’s capability to plan with people with disability for how to manage the disproportionate impact of disasters on people with disability.
Australia’s emergency management arrangements1 direct emergency management practices and activities of different actors (government, emergency services, non-government), including how these practices are organised and delivered across all levels of government. State and territory governments have primary responsibility for emergency management within their jurisdiction. These arrangements recognise that individuals, families, communities, and businesses must share responsibility with government and emergency services by preparing for and safeguarding against emergencies, including their ability to recover from disaster.
What’s missing are methods, tools and programmatic guidance on how to include people with disability and their support needs in emergency management practice and policy formulation. This presents significant risk to the safety and wellbeing of people with disability before, during and after emergencies.
This issues paper:
- Brings together lived experience and literature to build a picture of the roadblocks to safety and wellbeing for Australians with disability.
- Outlines six key issues (identified below) that present barriers to the full inclusion of people with disability in emergency management.
- Puts forward a suite of practical actions that institutions with responsibility for emergency management and other stakeholders can undertake.
The evidence and recommendations can be used by disability advocates and peak organisations to advocate for change toward disability inclusion in disaster risk reduction.
The six issues identified and discussed are:
- Disproportionate Risk
- Overlooked, Excluded
- Higher Demands, Fewer Choices
- Underprepared Support Services
- Extra Supports and Equal Access to the Same Supports
- Unclear Responsibilities
The issues paper concludes with recommendations on how to include people with disability and their support needs in emergency management arrangements. Five recommendations focus on how to clear the path to full inclusion:
- Build nationally consistent standards for including disability representation into all emergency management arrangements (policies, practices and activities) at all levels of government.
- Prioritise collaborative and inclusive disability research that will assist government and emergency personnel to understand and respond to the extra support needs of people with disability in emergencies.
- Provide person-centred resources, support, and advocacy where needed for people with disability to self-assess their risks and tailor personal emergency preparedness to their support needs and situation.
- Develop a nationally consistent approach to capacity development for community and disability service providers and disability advocates in person-centred emergency preparedness and service continuity planning.
- 5Provide explicit policy guidance on who takes responsibility for the extra support needs of people with disability in emergency situations including, how that support should be organised and delivered before, during and after disaster, and how the responsibilities of different stakeholders will be guided and outcomes measured.